Grace and Truth

…all the words of this life…


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A Fresh Start – Rosh HaShanah

One year ago I saw with my own eyes that God still moves by His prophetic calendar.  I will relate that experience to you in just a moment.

First I would like to briefly explain that tonight at sundown begins the Feast of Rosh HaShanah, also known as the Feast of Trumpets.  This feast continues until sundown on Friday.

The Feast of Trumpets is believed in Jewish tradition to be the time when God created the heavens and the earth.  It is for this reason that the Jewish Civil year begins on this day.

As Christians I believe it is important to know the Jewish roots of our faith, because they bring life, depth and meaning to our faith.  It is also important to know that God has not finished with national Israel.  Bible prophecy apart from national Israel is meaningless.  The fulfillment of His Feasts affect Israel as well as the Church and God certainly has not done away with His prophetic calendar.

A brief outline of the feasts show that the ministry of Jesus Christ (Yeshua) has fulfilled some  of these at His first coming and will fulfill the remainder at His second coming.

1.  The Feast of Passover – fulfilled

By the death of the Messiah

2. The Feast of Unleavened Bread – fulfilled

By the perfect, sinless life of Yeshua and His blood-offering at His death.

3. The Feast of the First- fruits – fulfilled

By the Resurrection of the Messiah

4. The Feast of Weeks (or Pentecost)  – fulfilled

By the birth of the Church at Pentecost

Following the spring cycle of feasts above, there was a four month period separating the spring from the Autumn feasts.  This interval is the Church Age, which is right now.  This temporarily interrupts God’s program for Israel, as revealed in the Feasts.

5.  The Feast of Trumpets

Yet to be fulfilled by the rapture of the Church.  (1 Corinthians 15:52)

6. The Day of Atonement

Yet to be fulfilled by the Great Tribulation with Israel’s national salvation at the culmination of that period. (Romans 11:26)

7.  The Feast of Tabernacles

Yet to be fulfilled by the setting up of the millennial Messianic Kingdom. (Revelation 21:3)

Now I would like to share a brief testimony of how God still moves by His prophetic calendar.  One year ago exactly, on the first day of the Feast of Trumpets, the first day of the Jewish civil New Year, we had Sunday lunch at our house.  A young man to whom we had been ministering for some years came in that morning.  To my amazement and joy as he approached the table the very first thing he said to us was “I am ready to accept Jesus as my Lord and Saviour.”  After we had spent some time talking, he ended up on his knees, repented of his sins and gave His life to Christ.

God is good and His mercy endures forever.  It’s the beginning of a New Year.  Take this opportunity to turn to Christ, the Passover lamb slain from the foundation of the world and have your sins washed away by His spotless blood.  He will give you new life in Him.

If you know Christ already, take this opportunity to re-consecrate your life to Him in total obedience and trust.  He will never let you down.

God bless you this Feast of Trumpets season.

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Pentecost (and a Hard Question for You)

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I would like to share something of urgency, which God has put on my heart today.  Firstly though I need to do a little background on the Feast of Pentecost, which, so happens, is today.

Today (from sundown May 14-15) is the national observance of the Feast of Pentecost, or Shavuot, in Israel. Shavuot is considered to be the time when God gave Moses the Torah on Mount Sinai after the exodus from Egypt.  The giving of the Torah to Moses was by God Himself coming down to meet with him on the Mount in a cloud, accompanied by smoke and fire and a blast of God’s trumpet. This was to establish His covenant with His people and so Shavuot is celebrated as the biblical birth date of the nation of Israel.

The basic theme of Shavuot is “the harvest” and of giving thanks to God.  Passover marked the beginning of the Spring harvest and on the Feast of First fruits the first fruits of a sheaf of barley was required to be presented before the Lord, as a wave offering in thanksgiving for the harvest.  From the next day, seven weeks were counted until wheat harvest.  This is why Pentecost is also called the “Feast of Weeks”.

Why is this relevant to us?  Because God works by His prophetic calendar. In the year AD 30, on the day of Pentecost, something else of great importance was birthed.  At Passover Christ had died as the Lamb of God, at Feast of First Fruits He rose again, then 50 days after His resurrection, on the Day of Pentecost, the Church was born.

“And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.  And suddenly from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting.  And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them.  And they were filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.”  Acts 2:1-4

God once again used fire, wind and other demonstrations of the Holy Ghost to establish a covenant with His people.  This was also a time of great harvest, with many thousands of people being saved and brought into the Church at once.

So this leads to what the Holy Spirit has impressed on my heart this afternoon.  Over the centuries since the Church was born at Pentecost there have been other times of great harvest and the ingathering of souls.  As Peter said, “And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams:  And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy.” (Acts 2:17, 18) Times of the outpouring of God’s Spirit have been recorded through history.  There was the Great Awakening traced to the Moravians in 1727, there was Whitefield in 1742, John Wesley in the 18th century, Finney in the 1830’s, DL Moody in the late 19th century, the Welsh revival in 1904, Asuza Street in 1906 – just to name a few.

But will God do it again? Will there be another time of a great outpouring of His Spirt, of revival, before the end of the age?  It is my wholehearted belief that it will be so.

(It is not my intention here to prove that God will once again bring revival.  I can recommend the following books if you would like to pursue this question further.  One is Leonard Ravenhill’s “Why Revival Tarries”, the other is “In the Day of Thy Power” by Arthur Wallis.)

The scripture that God impressed upon me today was this:

“And he said, ‘Thus says the Lord, make this valley full of ditches.  For thus says the Lord, you shall not see wind, neither shall you see rain, yet that valley shall be filled with water…” 2 Kings 3:16, 17

God required Judah and Israel to prepare for the coming outpouring of the water which He was to send by making the valley full of ditches.  This was so when the water came it would fall into these catchment areas and not simply run-off and be lost and wasted.  This is what God is speaking to His Church even in this day.   It is no secret that water can be a symbol of the Holy Spirit in the Bible.  He is saying to prepare for the coming outpouring of the Spirit – by making ditches in the valley to catch the water as it flows through.

I guess the Israelites must have dug into the desert floor with some sort of spade instruments.  It can’t have been an easy task to make a valley “full of ditches”.  But while it was probably hard, it wasn’t impossible, and they did do it.

How do we make ditches today?  We need to dig into the hardness of human hearts with the instrument of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  The hardness will be confronted with the power of the gospel and pride will be broken down when met with the Word of God.

Jesus said in Matthew 9:38 “The harvest truly is plentiful, but the labourers are few, Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest.”

God needs labourers to go out into the harvest once again and gather in the lost.   God needs us to warn them that without Him, they will die.  I am not being melodramatic.  One thing God impressed upon me today is His urgency to have sinners turn to Him.  He says :

“Say unto them, ‘As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die?” Ezekial 33:11

This is serious.  If we truly believe that we are in the last days and if we truly believe that Jesus is coming back as the Lion of the tribe of Judah to judge the world in a Day of wrath, then we need to warn people.  It is God’s heart that none should perish.   But He has entrusted to us the precious task of preaching the gospel, of warning, of being watchmen.  And He actually, really expects us to do it.

“Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the people of Israel; so hear the word I speak and give them warning from me. When I say to the wicked, ‘You wicked person, you will surely die,’ and you do not speak out to dissuade them from their ways, that wicked person will die for[a] their sin, and I will hold you accountable for their blood. But if you do warn the wicked person to turn from their ways and they do not do so, they will die for their sin, though you yourself will be saved.”  Ezekiel 33:7-9

This is not a call for an elite set of evangelists, or for someone with a special anointing, this is a call for every Christian.  Jesus Himself said “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.” Mark 16:15

I am sorry if this makes you uncomfortable or if it bursts your happy bubble, but God’s heart breaks for the lost every single day.  And ours should too.

Of course, the very first thing that occurs when we are confronted by a hard truth, me included, is our sense of inadequacy.  That I am unfit for the task, that I am too weak, too female, or too imperfect hits me most of the time.  But God says we are not inadequate, we are not incapable.  He has called us for this very reason and He will put His words in our mouths.

Listen to this:  Ninevah turned from their sin when Jonah got over himself and warned them of their impending judgment.

They turned.

And they lived.

God is calling for someone to “make this valley full of ditches” in these last days.

Will it be you?

“The fact is, Christians are more to blame for not being revived, than sinners are for not being converted.  And if Christians are not awakened, they may know assuredly that God will visit them with His judgments.  How often God visited the Jewish church with judgments because they would not repent and be revived at the call of His prophets.”  Charles Finney


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Passover

This year I have been surprised by the strong sense of anticipation I have felt as Passover has drawn near.

While I have been aware for a long time of the eternal truths that shine forth through the feast of Passover, this time it is different. Recently I have come to see that the story of Passover in a striking way reflects my own story. The external truth of the Passover, to me, has become an inward reality.

My Passover story began about six and a half years ago. I had been a church-going Christian all of my life. I loved God and knew He loved me and had guided me throughout my whole life. I lived my life the best that I could and everything had turned out pretty well. I had married a wonderful man, had a lovely baby girl and was really quite happy with my life and with myself. I had no need for anything more and I certainly was not looking to change myself or my life in any way.

Then one day someone gave me a tape-sermon from a fiery old preacher-man and everything changed.

Mainly I listened to the sermon out of curiosity, with absolutely no clue as to the ramifications it would have on my life forever. By the time that sermon was over I was on my knees on the floor. I was in the presence of God and I was borne down under Holy Ghost conviction. What happened that night changed me forever. I saw myself clearly for the first time in my life. For me, a young woman, satisfied with things as they were currently in my life – to be absolutely confronted with the state of my own heart was devastating. My sins were right in front of my face – the things I had done and shouldn’t have done and the things I should have done and didn’t. Not only that, but I also saw that I had inherited a sin-nature from Adam and that there was nothing that I could do about it.

The only way to explain what I experienced (and words cannot do justice) was a death. I was crushed under the weight of my sin. I wept and wept. I was in mourning. An hour before that my life was good and fine, no major issues, all smooth sailing, and now everything was different, I was different. This was not something that could be dismissed or forgotten. I was utterly undone. For the person I was before this to continue to exist was no longer a possibility. In the light of truth there was no option for me but to repent of my sins and cry out to God for His grace and mercy.

And God came to me in mercy. I knew that Jesus had taken the penalty for my sins upon Himself at the cross. That He had already paid for them there and that I was forgiven. I arose from the floor a changed woman. Out of the ashes of that mourning and death God had raised up something different, something beautiful. It was Life in place of death.

From that moment I was different. In all honesty prior to my meeting God face-to-face, I had been rather hard and cold-hearted, although I didn’t see myself that way at the time. I used to say that “I love animals but hate people”. I saw what people did to each other and I hated them for it. (I didn’t really include myself in that category though, I was pretty ok.) I was capable of feeling compassion towards suffering and needy people of course, but to be actually inconvenienced by going out of my way in order to help them, was an irritation to which I would not, nor could not, subject myself. To actually lay down my life for others was a concept so foreign to me that it simply would never have entered my mind. (My husband can attest to the hardness of heart that used to be mine, to my shame).

But now, because I had been “born-again” I was a new creation. I was now a child of God and was full of Him. I became tender-hearted, as He is. I began to reach out to others, as He does. Although I am obviously not perfect, I can honestly say that the total and complete change in the state of my own heart is the biggest proof to me that there is a God, and that He is in the business of changing hearts. I know what I was before, and I know the difference to what I am now. Of course until God exposed the truth of my heart to me I had no idea.

Going back a little at this point, although I was convicted, forgiven and changed that night, I actually continued to struggle under the weight of my now-revealed sin for quite a few months. Whilst I knew that Christ had died for my sin and that God had forgiven me, I still experienced a heavy weight of guilt and I couldn’t seem to be able to walk in the forgiveness for which I knew Christ had died. Whenever I messed up that just added more weight to the guilt. I even came to think that perhaps I was meant to remain in this state. However, once again, God met me in His mercy. He simply revealed to me one night that my sins past, present and future are “under the blood”. He showed me that no amount of fussing or of feeling guilty changes the fact that I am covered by the blood of the Lamb. He actually showed me that guilt was a waste of time and energy because the blood of a righteous Redeemer is what God sees when He looks at me.

In that moment of time, all the burden of my guilt vanished. Now I knew experientially that I was forgiven, I knew that I was free from guilt! A load lifted from me, never to be experienced again. I now walk in the “glorious liberty by which Christ has made (me) free.” And all because of the blood. I could now truly say, as the old hymn:

“’Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears relieved”

God said to the Israelites at the very first Passover:

“Now the blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you; and the plague shall not be on you to destroy you…” Exodus 12:13

Just as God’s judgment “passed over” the Israelites because they were covered by the blood of the Passover lamb, I too have been covered by the blood of the Lamb, so that I have escaped God’s judgment for sin. The Bible says:
“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal Life”

About 1300 years after the first Passover lamb was sacrificed in order to redeem Israel from slavery in Eqypt, another Lamb was sacrificed in order to redeem humankind from the bondage of sin. This Lamb was slain on Passover too, crucified on the cross. John the Baptist said of Him: “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” He was blemish-less, unleavened by sin and He tasted of the “bitter herbs” of suffering. Jesus, the Son of God, chose to come to earth to be the sacrifice for our sins, in order to redeem us. He was the “Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” and all because “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)

May God bless you with His grace this Passover season!